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Chronobiol Int. 2013 Jul;30(6):766-71. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2012.763132. Epub 2013 Jun 10.

Sleep timing is more important than sleep length or quality for medical school performance.

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Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.


Overwhelming evidence supports the importance of sleep for memory consolidation. Medical students are often deprived of sufficient sleep due to large amounts of clinical duties and university load, we therefore investigated how study and sleep habits influence university performance. We performed a questionnaire-based study with 31 medical students of the University of Munich (second and third clinical semesters; surgery and internal medicine). The students kept a diary (in 30-min bins) on their daily schedules (times when they studied by themselves, attended classes, slept, worked on their thesis, or worked to earn money). The project design involved three 2-wk periods (A: during the semester; B: directly before the exam period--pre-exam; C: during the subsequent semester break). Besides the diaries, students completed once questionnaires about their sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index [PSQI]), their chronotype (Munich Chronotype Questionnaire [MCTQ]), and their academic history (previous grades, including the previously achieved preclinical board exam [PBE]). Analysis revealed significant correlations between the actual sleep behavior during the semester (MS(diary); mid-sleep point averaged from the sleep diaries) during the pre-exam period and the achieved grade (p = 0.002) as well as between the grades of the currently taken exam and the PBE (p = 0.002). A regression analysis with MS(diary) pre-exam and PBE as predictors in a model explained 42.7% of the variance of the exam grade (effect size 0.745). Interestingly, MS(diary)--especially during the pre-exam period-was the strongest predictor for the currently achieved grade, along with the preclinical board exam as a covariate, whereas the chronotype did not significantly influence the exam grade.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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